27 February 2018 | Madrid
01 December 2017 | Cordoba
11 October 2017 | Granada
25 September 2017 | Almerimar
25 September 2017 | Almeria
21 September 2017 | Isla de Adrento
21 September 2017 | Mar Menor
19 September 2017 | Campello
16 September 2017 | Calpe
15 September 2017 | Porto Roig
15 September 2017 | Ibiza town
12 September 2017 | San Vincente
11 September 2017 | Between Mallorca and Ibiza
10 September 2017 | Cala Blanca, Mallorca
10 September 2017 | Palma, Mallorca
27 February 2018 | Madrid
What a world away I am. Staying on the Sunshine Coast in Australia is a shock in itself. The whole area is so new, new new. It’s as if some giant has stood over the coast and strewn seeds, and from these "seeds” are growing new housing estates, shopping centres, hospitals, and roads. New cities now exist where there were none. When I left the Sunshine coast last Thursday I left, not only warm and humid weather, but a brand new world, spacious, gleaming and new.
Landing in Madrid on Friday, where the weather has been cool and dry I am not only on the other side of the world but also the other side of time. As I climb the worn wooden stairs to my room in the city centre, my thoughts are that this street and building was built before the Sunshine Coast had been seen by a white man. I have traded new world spaciousness for old world “coziness”. Those who remember Harry Potter’s “room” under the stairs of his mean old uncle’s house will have a good image of what my room is like here. At night in bed I can hear the snoring from my host. In the shared bathroom, when I sit on the toilet my feet are in the shower; when I wash with soap in the shower my elbow turns off the tap. However small it is, it is compensated by the position. I am in the heart of the city, 2 mins walk from the Plaza Major and the Royal Palace.
Where the Sunshine coast was new, Madrid was old even before Australia was discovered; however, I am loving it. The city oozes charm - even the street signs are charming. With the sun low in the sky, I walk down shady streets of old buildings only to emerge into open plazas bathed in sunshine. The plazas are full with people meeting friends, playing music, or selling illicit goods. Streets are crammed with bookshops, tapas bars, churches and shops selling boots of Spanish leather. Joni Mitchell said Europe was “…too old and cold and settled in its ways.” however, Madrid has so much life and culture. I passed a queue of people 100 metres long, waiting to see an exhibition of paintings by Alphonse Mucha: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphonse_Mucha. Having visited the palace, churches and museums on Saturday, I guess I should mention a little of these.
Just around the corner from my “digs” is the Casa de la Villa, the old Town Hall built commencing 1645 it served as the town hall as well as prison. The Royal Palace was built on the site of the earlier Moorish alcazar, and is western Europe’s largest palace; it makes Buckingham Palace look like the visitor’s quarters. Originally housing 3,000 people, the rooms open to visitors, from the throne room to the kitchens are, I’m sure, only a small fraction of the total. The armoury has magnificent weapons and suits of armour, including those for the horses and children. (You worried about your kids growing out of their clothes!) Cathedral de la Almudena is opposite the palace and was built, you guessed it, on the site of the earlier mosque after king Filipe II moved the capital from Toledo to Madrid in 1561. I found the crypts beneath the church the most fascinating and still being used. The Monasterio de la Encarnacion commenced in 1611, lies between the Royal Palace and Plaza Espana, but I skipped the tour as it is only available in Spanish. Plaza Mayor, was commenced in the 1560’s by Filipe II and at various times has been used as a market place, bullring, executions, coronations, and inquisition trials. The buildings around the square are residential apart from Casa de la Panaderia (old bakery); centre of the square is a statue of king Filipe III. The Basilica de San Francisco el Grande was built in 1760 on the site where St Francis founded a Franciscan convent in 1217; the dome is the largest in Spain and 4th largest in the world. It overlooks plaza de San Francisco in the la Latina district, which today is chock full of bars and eateries. However, for me, these famous buildings are not the main subject of the Madrid picture; they are the back-drop to the living portrait of the city of today.
I found something different on Sunday - street markets. There are precious few cars in the city centre, like the trains and crypts, mostly condemned underground. This leaves people, young and old dressed so trendy, to take over the streets with stalls selling everything from second hand clothing, books and bric-a-brac, all to the sounds of the clatter of coffee cups and street music on every corner. I walked the streets trying to capture a portrait of the living city in some pictures with my trusty iPhone, today’s box brownie, however, my portrait was also captured - see main picture.
By the time you read this I will be back on In Tune, on the coast and already missing Madrid; I walked out to the train station past the Puerto de Toledo. Though I have loved Madrid, some peace and tranquility (and work on In Tune) now awaits me.
01 December 2017 | Cordoba
Historical Centre - Cordoba's Historical Center is one of the largest in Europe; you can see evidence of various periods of history within this one area. Sites within the historic centre include the Roman Bridge over the River Guadalquivir; Alcazar with its magnificent mosaics; the Roman temple; remains of the Roman walls; Caliphal Baths; Grand Mosque and many more.
Calleja de las Flores - A quaint couple of alley-ways located in the Jewish Quarter of, near the Mosque and leads into a small plaza. The houses have charming balconies with wrought-iron balustrades with colourful flower pots.
Mezquita Cathedral - Undoubtedly the most wonderful building in Cordoba. The majority of the art and architecture we see today comes from the 8th century Islamic architects of the former mosque. As far back as the Romans this was considered holy and the Romans constructed a temple here. The Christian church was built inside the mosque by the Catholic conquerors in the 13th century.
The original mosque took more than 200 years to complete; it was begun in 784AD and is said to have held an original copy of the Koran and relics of the Prophet Mohammed. Each wave of conquering invaders left their mark on the building and changes continued into the late 18th century.
Puerta del Puenta - The Bridge Gate stands on the north bank of the River and the present Renaissance structure was constructed on the site of former Roman and Moorish gates. First mention of the gate in historic documents was is 720AD when it was restored. The gate joins the old town to the Roman Bridge and would have been the entry gate to the city and part of the city walls.
Roman Bridge - The Roman bridge originated in the 1st century AD but has been rebuilt several times since then. The bridge was part of the route which connected Roma to Cadiz. Its present form was constructed in the Middle Ages, with the Muslim rulers building on the remains of the former Roman Bridge. The Puerta del Puente and Calahorra Tower were constructed at each end of the bridge in the Middle Ages, with the latest changes made in 18th century.
Alcazar - The fortress of Alcazar was the royal court for 160 years following its constructed by Alfonso XI in 1328. The palace stands on the site on an earlier 8th century caliphate residence and still retains parts of the Moorish remains. During the 15th century the complex was home to Ferdinand and Isabella. This is where Christopher Columbus was presented to Queen Isabella and told his plans to find a new route to India - ha!. This complex later became the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition (1492-1821) and in 1810 the palace-fortress became the garrison for Napoleon's forces.
Gallery of the Inquisition - The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition was established by King Ferdinand II and Isabella in 1478 following the Medieval Inquisition established by the Pope. The inquisition continued until 1834 and was directly under the authority of the monarchy. I guess humankind has made a little progress in the last 500 years.
Palacio de la Merced - Originally Convent of St. Mary of Mercy, the surviving building date back to renovations carried out on the convent building in the late 17th century. The site was renovated from 1745 to 1760. Eexcavations revealed the remains of an ancient Roman masonry as well as part of a baptistery and crypt from the Middle Ages, although little remains of the 13th century convent. In 1850 the site underwent renovations turning it into a hospital and again in 1960 it was renovated to become the present city council buildings.
Cristo de los Faroles - Christ of the Lanterns is baroque crucifix located in the center of Capuchin's Square. Thie square is extremely plain The crucifix is surrounded by eight lanterns or street lamps and was created in 1794.
Museo de Julio Romero de Torres - Eestablished in 1931, the museum is dedicated to work by the Cordobian artist Julio Romero de Torres. The museum holds a collection of paintings with works spanning his career. In later life he became known for his erotic paintings of nude women -I liked his work a lot. Good on you Julio! Unfortunately, no photo's inside the museum.
Casa de las Cabezas (House of the Heads) - The house has four sections and four courtyards (patios) taking you back to the Medieval era to the life of a noble family. In the vaulted cellar there are the old stables and an ancient Roman pool. The house has one of the few surviving resting places where women would sit on thick carpets and beautiful fabrics - up until the 1700s chairs were reserved for the men. (I don't think that fashion will come back.)
Alongside the house is a narrow lane covered by seven stone arches. According to legend the house once belonged to a nobleman named Gonzalo Gustioz who was held prisoner here. Seven of his sons tried to rescue him and were slaughtered in the ensuing battle. Then their heads were hung from the arches in the lane, hence the name. Once again, I guess we have progressed a little.
The Greenhouse Tour
20 November 2017
This area has the largest concentration of greenhouses in the world (approx 70,000 hectares), and is worth almost 3 billion euros to the economy of the region, and all of this has happened within 40 years when they decided to use underground water. It has transformed Andelucia from one of the poorest to one of the richest regions in Spain. So I decided to take a tour; I must say it was one of the most interesting tours I have done,
We drove to the "farm" through a basin of hydrogen peroxide and then walked over sponge mats containing other chemicals to kills unwanted visitors.
The plastic greenhouses were originally built to shelter the plants from strong winds, but they found that, through the temperature being raised by 5-6 deg in winter, the growing season was significantly increased; they now grow all the vegetables through the winter. Even the plastic is recycled nowadays when it is replaced every 3 years.
On entering the greenhouse there was atrong fan blowing against us to keep bugs out as we entered an anti-chamber, allowing the outer door to be closed, where we waited for several minutes before the inner door was opened. The several minute wait in the anti-chamber is to allow insects to stick to the walls, which are lined with blue and yellow sticky sheets. (The blue and yellow attract different bugs.)
The atmosphere inside the greenhouses is computer controlled by raising and lowering roof or wall vents every 5 minutes, depending on the temperature and humidity readings inside.
The plants are grown in the ground by some growers, while other prefer to use pots or tubs. The potting mix inside the tubs is made with copra fibre, organic mater, fertiliser and nutrients; the copra being fibrous keeps oxygen in the "soil". If grown in the ground, the soil is covered with about 20 cm thick layer of course sand to minimise moisture evaporation.
Water of course is a big issue, since the area is incredibly dry. The drip watering system is all computer controlled and, if grown n tubs, they have drip trays underneath the tubs to collect any unused water, which is then re-mixed with fresh water (about 15%) and reused. The water mostly comes from ground water, but they have also built a desalination plant recently.
The growing season is approx August to April, during which they grow zucchini, aubergines, tomatoes, capsicums, etc.. They need to rotate the crops if grown in the ground, but not nearly so if grown in the tubs.
One of the most fascinating aspects was the pest control They do not use any chemicals or pesticides nowadays. The transition away from pesticides took 3-4 years to achieve, but now they maintain a complete eco system inside the greenhouses. The main pests are things like aphids, thrip, white flies, mites etc that are herbivores - ie. they eat the plants. So by inserting several different species of insects (the good bugs) which are carnivores, they eat the bad guys. Some of the introduced ones eat the eggs and larvae of the "bad bugs" (herbivores) and some eat the adult insects. All this has to be kept in balance so they count the bugs once a week on a sample of 20 plants in each greenhouse. Some are only 4 per sq m and some are 70 per sq m.
All cuttings etc are left on the floor to dry for several days to allow time for the bugs to leave and go back to the living plants before the cuttings are taken out. At the end of each growing season, all the old plants are used as compost for future growing. I think she said that the EU won't let them use animal fertiliser any more.
At the end we got to sample and buy some of the produce . Interesting that she was saying that the way they eat the tomatoes, such as in salads etc. is they sprinkle a little salt over, then drown it in olive oil (mopped up in bread stick) She explained that this made a very good anti-oxidant. So we ended up buying a bottle of their special olive oil, ratatouille, and marmalade made from olive oil.
This week in Almerimar
04 November 2017
Hello blog readers. This is an update to give you an idea of how life is here in the marina in southern Spain. The weather is still bright and sunny every day, but getting gradually cooler - max 20's. Still in shorts and tee shirts during the day but cool in the evening & need a jacket when going out at night.
We had dinner aboard Anori (friends from Switzerland) late last week because Maja was returning to Switzerland for 5 months to work & save money for their further cruising; so it was a farewell dinner for her. Hajot baked us a Swiss bread (see pic taken by Maja). Hajot also showed me the latest song from his son Lucas's band, The Souls - check it out - I like it. Lucas is the one on the right of the lead singer (on the left side of the singer from his view) playing lead guitar (taking a bow at the very end of the video):
Wednesday night is quiz night in one bar, but don't often go often. I went to the one for music quiz and did very well in that one. The regular quiz is on Saturday night which has great tapas (we make that our dinner), however, our team never wins largely because its very UK-oriented. And I used to think I was good at trivia!
Sunday morning early a car drove off the end of the pontoon near us with two women aboard! Probably drunk or using the phones or both. The car was on the sea bed 7 m down and a diver was there. I believe it has been pulled up now though I didn't see the crane lift it out. Both women managed to escape as they were both there watching the diver. Another woman driver didn't do a good job parking just near us and almost went off the edge - I did get a pic of that one.
Every Sunday I go hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains. We do about 12 Km ch week. see pix.
Still doing a few small boat jobs during the day, though nothing major right now. I went to the top of the mast to replace the mooring light recently; that was adventurous!
I didn't realise how big halloween is in Spain. I thought it was a US thing, but is really is big here. Nov 1 is a public holiday after the halloween celebrations. They put up a marquee in the small town square near our boat and had a kids party there. In the marquee they had some sort of "ghost train" experience. The kids were queued up outside to go in with their parents. Mostly the whole family were dressed up in the costumes. They had a dance floor set up for the kids and competitions, dancing and prizes for best costume etc.
We had two Spanish galleons arrive and stayed for the week. The smaller one, Nao Victoria, was a replica of one the 5 ships that Ferdinand Magellan left Spain with, and the only one to return having done the first circumnavigation of the world, Magellan never made it of course being killed in the Philippines by the natives. The bigger one, El Galeon, is a replica of one of the ships that plied the Spain-Caribbean route plundering gold & silver (The Spanish call it "trading" 😟). Both replica's have completed a circumnavigation, and are now on goodwill visits to ports etc. and are now used as training vessels. The tour, was excellent. - see pic.
This is their website: https://www.fundacionnaovictoria.org/el-galeon/
We have an open mike session every Thursday night in the Irish bar. There are several of us with guitars, one bass, girl with ukulele etc - usually about 6 in all. I usually do a set of 6 songs, but I have now lost my lead guitarist who has gone skiing in France. (See pic)
If you are interested, look at about my last 3 posts and that will give you an idea of life here. Best wishes to all.
To view the pix, just click on Gallery above and double click on them to scroll through.
Walking in the Sierra Nevada mountains
23 October 2017
Every Sunday I go hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains - old mines, houses, villages, spectacular views, and rugged terrain. Hunting is popular around here so we usually pass a few hunters along the way. At the end - a cold beer. :-)
11 October 2017 | Malaga
After a good night's rest, we drove to Malaga along the coastal highway. The road is incredible - huge tunnels through the mountains, viaducts high over dry river beds, some mountains sliced like a cheese wheel to allow the road through. The mainly dry mountains are scattered with greenhouses on plots that have been levelled out.
Solving the usual problem of where to park the car, we set about exploring on foot, after a lunch of tapas opposite the old roman theatre. (The Roman theatre had been buried for centuries, built over, and was only excavated commencing 1950's.) I explored the Alcazabar while G waited - she thinks anything after Alhambra isn't worth visiting. Miles of the town centre is closed to traffic, making it a great place to explore on foot. Once again the cathedral is just breathtaking in it's size, design, engineering, and decoration.
Malaga is the birthplace and childhood home of Picasso, so day 2 we visited the the Picasso museum after spending an hour selecting the best place for coffee and cakes. I may be a philistine, but I have never been a big fan of Picasso.
Back to Almerimar along the coastal highway, some shopping since we had a car to carry it, and home again to relax late afternoon. Malaga and Granada are both fabulous cities to explore if you are ever down this way - I have a slight preference for Granada, though being set at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the weather is not as good as the seaside Malaga.