26 Apr

Granada – The Alhambra

I have not had much time for writing this week – my days in Barcelona are flying by!  I have a lot that I want to say about my time in Granada, but I think the pictures of the Alhambra can stand on their own without much commentary.

I went early on Saturday – the air was crisp and the sun was shining.  I am reading a novel that takes place in Spain, and at one point, the narrator travels to Granada and makes the comment that he’s the only American in history to visit the city and not see the Alhambra.  Point being, it’s what people do there.  Yes, it was crowded, but there were plenty of quiet corners where one could just take in the space and reflect.  Also – and this was by far my favorite part of seeing this site – water runs through every part of it.  Flowing down little channels on the sides of the streets, rushing from unexpected waterfalls, pouring out of constantly-running fountains, trickling down stairway banisters.

The first picture is one that I shot from the Albaicin the night before my visit; the rest are from the site itself.





View of the Albaicin


Charles V Palace






Palacios Nazaries





Patio de los Leones – under renovation


This is a ceiling in the Palace.



Washington Irving wrote “Tales of the Alhambra” in this room.



More views of the Albaicin








The Alhambra view from my hostal


21 Apr


I arrived in Granada this afternoon, and it is quite cold and rainy – a bit too much so for me to enjoy much sightseeing on foot today (I even splurged on a cab from the station).  However!  I think that makes it the perfect time to sit here on the (covered) rooftop terrace and catch up on my travelogue.  Oddly, I feel like I should have a cigarette and some cafe (neither of which will actually be happening).

pension landazuri terrace


If you look just to the right (ha, you can’t look to the right), you’ll see the Alhambra.  (I didn’t realize this until I sat down here to write, and the camera is back in my bedroom.  So that will be part of my private travel experience, I guess.)

I traveled from Cordoba to Sevilla on Monday, and the visit did not get off to the easiest of starts.  So.  I had a glass of wine and an expensive salad, took a short walk, and then a nap.  I just wanted to get oriented to the city layout, so I wandered to the Cathedral and back to my pension.  I wish I had a picture that could capture the enormity of this church – it was amazing (more on the Cathedral later in the post).



Here are my bartenders at the Bodega Santa Cruz, who would keep track of my bill by chalking it on the bar.  So much for a candid shot; I am not the first tourist who’s walked in their door.



Later that night, I took in a flamenco show at Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus.  It was good, and very different from the show in Madrid; I think I’ll say more about that in another post.  After the show, I wandered for just a few blocks around my pension and took this shot of a nearby lane.  I can’t believe I didn’t get more pictures of Sevilla’s wind-y ways!  They were similar to those in Cordoba, but this picture shows one that is wide by Sevillan standards – many were half this size.



The next morning, I attempted to find the lavanderia to have my clothes washed, but the recommended establishment was closed (and at the time, it looked like it was closed forever).  So I carried my clothes around with me like a bag lady and went to the Plaza de Toros and Museo Taurino.


 I have to admit, there were times when I was feeling very photo-weary in Sevilla, and I was downright frustrated with things when I walked into the Bullring entrance with a bag of dirty clothes and a hungry belly.  (Breakfast?  Spaniards don’t eat breakfast.)  Thankfully, this place was beautiful and inspiring, plus the tour was in Espanol and Ingles.  I may have gotten a little carried away with the camera…




I know it’s brutal, but I kind of wish I’d been able to see a bullfight (the fights don’t really start up for another week or two).  (Oh, don’t even think it – this city was beautiful to see, but I can’t even imagine trying to enjoy it during the actual tourist season.)




Game of Heads – did the tour guide say, “game of heads”?  Yes, I think she did.  Apparently, this is something that went along with bullfighting in the good ole days.  She assured us that it was only papier mache heads, though (so… where’s the fun in that?).

Game of Heads

After I found a cafe where I could sit down and write and have a little late breakfast, and successfully dropped off my dirty clothes at the (now open) laundry, I was feeling revived, and brave enough to take on the Cathedral.


This is the third largest church in Europe, and the largest Gothic church in the world, so…


… things were really tall.


Christopher Columbus is in there.  Seriously:
Columbus Tomb

These are some shots from inside the Giralda Bell Tower, part of the Cathedral.  Instead of stairs, there is a circling ramp to the top, to accommodate riders on horseback who were giving the Muslim call to prayer (the tower was formerly a Moorish minaret).


I found a quiet window alcove where I could just stop for a few minutes and take in the view.  It was romantic to see the city spread out like this, and it was a much-needed break from the crowds following me through the church and now up the ramp.  The rooftops made me sad, though.  I so wished I knew someone in this town, a friend that I could share a bottle of wine with up on one of those tiny patios, and talk about the day, and then go inside and have a proper dinner together.  In the end, I found Sevilla to be awfully lonely.

Sevilla Cathedral View

 Really wish I hadn’t cut off the top of the spire in this picture.

Sevilla Cathedral View

The next morning, I went looking for the Universidad, and instead found the Plaza de Espana.  At the time, I had no idea what I was looking at, and I couldn’t find any signs to clear things up (all I knew was that I’d run into a handful of soldiers milling around on the back side of the building, and the entrance was marked as a military zone – apparently, several government offices are located here nowadays).  Still, this “building” was something to see.  It stretches for a half-mile of semi-circle, and the moat runs in front of the entire complex.

 Plaza de Espana

Can you pick out all of the tiny lampposts in the picture above?  Each one of them looks like this:

 Plaza de Espana lamppost

I couldn’t get over all of the ornate detail everywhere in the plaza.

I did finally make it to the University, where I took a writing break, and then I wandered around for the lunch hour.

Sevilla Courtyard

If this guy plays the theme from The Godfather one more time, I’m going to rip that accordion right out of his hands and throw it in one of these cute little lanes.


In the evening, I went to the Alcazar, where I took a lot of pictures of ceilings:


The style of architecture is called Mudejar, and it is awesome:




The gardens were equally impressive.




Now I’m just taking pictures for the backyard remodel…


I could say I took this next picture because it made me stop and realize how special life is, but you can probably guess from this post that my attitude in Sevilla was a bit more on the snarky side.  At the time, this sign was telling me, “Hey, tourists.  We speak English, and we totally get you.  For a truly memorable experience, you should spend your money here.”


Sevilla.  Of course I am glad I went, but I do not think I will look back on it with overly fond memories.  It’s all in the attitude, the timing, the fullness or emptiness of your tummy at the time – so don’t take this as a thumbs-down for the city.  I simply chose to make Sevilla the place where I embraced the universal travel experiences of loneliness, hunger, fatigue, and claustrophobia.  What can you do?  I asked for experience, I got it.

At the end of this writing, I am more than 2 days into my stay in Granada, and it has been glorious – if I return to Spain, I will definitely take a longer stretch in this part of Andalucia.  But that’s for another post (or two; that’s how awesome Granada has been)…

15 Apr

Madrid, Cordoba

I hate to just jump in here without any preface, but such is life along with my half-hearted commitment to blog-writing, I suppose.  I have been traveling in Spain (!), and given that I am Facebook-averse, this spot seems a good one to share a few photos (and – bonus! – you won’t have to look through every single picture I’ve taken) (that said, you know I tend to be wordy, and I can’t promise that goes away when I start telling stories with pictures).

Also – apologies ahead of time if I sound a bit spacey.  I’m trying to keep up in Spanish, and then I spent an evening with French-speakers the other night, and amidst all of the translation in my head and my own slow and simple speech, I appear to be losing my capacity for English.

Okay, so, here’s what I’ve done so far…

Here’s the first thing I saw when I walked up from the Gran Via Metro stop:

Gran Via Metro Stop



Hello, Madrid!

Since I couldn’t check into my hotel for another 4 hours, I dropped off my bag and took a walk.  Here are some trees in Retiro Park:

Parque de Retiro


On the streets of Madrid:

madrid streets


I thought this was the Palace when I saw it coming around the corner (I was getting close to the Palace anyway), but now I’m pretty sure it’s the Cathedral of Almudena.  Or not.  I did not tour it (nor the Palace, in the end), but I particularly enjoyed seeing it from the street.

 Madrid City Hall


Mostly, I got lost a lot in Madrid.  A lot.  The streets are all twisty and turny, and while I am quite happy with the advice I’ve gotten on this trip from Rick Steves, I think he could use a hand in the cartography department.  My first night in the city, walking back to the hotel with Frank and Jean Francois, we knew we were getting close because we recognized this statue.  Only, then I saw this statue in the daylight, and it was not very close to our hotel at all.

 Sweeper Statue

 Flamenco!  This show was awesome, although my pictures are not (they were moving so fast!).  A note from my guidebook: “Since this is for locals as well as tour groups, the flamenco is contemporary and may be jazzier than your notion – it depends on who’s performing.”  Perhaps I will be better able to compare after I get to Sevilla.  In any case, the singing and dancing were amazing, and it was so intimate – it made me feel like I would be a ballet fan if the dancers were ever this close.  I met Brits Claire and the 2 Sues (hi, ladies!) in line and we had a fun time drinking sangria and chatting about the show.



The very center of Spain, kilometer 0, across the street from Puerta del Sol:



The next day, I went to the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, where the Guernica was more moving than I expected it to be, and I took this picture of Picasso’s L’homme au Mouton.  (Or maybe that was a reproduction, given the link I just referenced…?)  Perhaps the Guernica comment needs explaining, and yet, I don’t really feel like getting into the whole thing right now; I will say that I am reading Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station while traveling, and it’s particularly comforting when the camera-toting tourists (myself among them) get to be a bit  overwhelming.  Also, my day at the Prado was crap (but do read that link before you let my concise review deter you).

 l'homme au mouton


… and then I went to Cordoba.  Here’s the patio where I ate lunch yesterday:



There were a guitar player and violinist playing in the corner, whose music convinced me to step inside and give the place a try.  Then I went to the Mezquita:

 Mezquita 1


Here’s a view inside the mosque portion of the building:

Mezquita 2


Nice, right?  Here’s a shot inside the part that is the current cathedral:

Mezquita 3


Back to the mosque part (oops, I was kind of all over the place).  This is the ceiling above the mihrab:

Mezquita 4


After the Mezquita, I took a long walk around Cordoba’s Jewish Quarter.

The whole city seems to smell like orange blossoms, which is particularly nice after Madrid, which smelled like sewer gas.  (Travel tip: those drain covers aren’t just for show, a lesson I learned after coming home to a very stinky hotel room.)



The streets in the old part of the city are beautiful.

 cordoba streets 1


 cordoba streets 2


This part of the city is known (in part) for its patios – many homes have a central courtyard, which you can peek into from the street.

 Cordoba Patios

The statue of Maimonides:



Have I mentioned the dogs already?  This is the strangest thing – all over Madrid and Cordoba, people are walking their dogs without leashes.  I want to run up and ask every one of them, “How do you do it???“, but I can’t, because I only know how to say things like, “Donde estan los servicios?,” and, “Un tinto, por favor”.  Sigh.  They make me miss my puppies, though.

perro negro


Today, I went to the Casa de Sefarad:



And then I had te de bedouin at Salon de Te, near my hotel.  (Oh, I hate people who take pictures of their food!  I am such a tourist.  I did refrain from pulling out the camera at lunch, but it was tempting because I had the most delicious salmorejo, con jamon y heuvos – yum!)

Te 1


The patio at Salon de Te:

Te 2


After lunch, I came back to my hotel room and wrote this post, which actually took a lot longer than I expected (but given the tea and sleeping late today, I didn’t need my daily nap after all).

In closing, this is pretty much my hairdo for the next two weeks.  (Hey, would-be burglars: my roommate and my dogs are at home, so don’t get any ideas.)  I could say more about the hair thing, but then I would really sound like an American tourist.