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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Vacationing Could be a Walk Away.

 Been ages since I've posted on this blog, life has been entirely too busy.  A little kick start from a mini type of travel.  Over The Labor Day Weekend we attended the annual UA Arts Festival.  Spotted this unusual flower that requires no watering, no fertilizers, and no weeding!  AND it's made of re-cycled stuff.  Click to enlarge and take a look.  I love how at a time when things are turning drab in the yard with flowers gone I can still have a flower blooming.
Last year, at the same Arts Festrival I added the little bird sitting on a robin blue egg, and the year before Martini Drinking Toad.  These are positioned such that I can see them well from my kitchen window over the sink so I get lots of enjoyment from them.  One lone yellow Stella De Ora trying to photo bomb my yard

There are many different types of travels, some are close at hand, right in your own neighborhood.  Look up your cities calendar of events and take in these little mini vacations.  This art festival is within walking distance to our house, so we got exercise (anyone else a fitbit junky like me?), saw neighbors, supported our local arts department and brighten up our garden.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Basilica De La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona Spain

 Hubby and I in Barcelona, Spain sitting in the park in front of the famous Basilicia De La Sagrada Familia.  La Sagrada Familia translates into "The Holy Family".  The gorgeous church/cathedral was consecrated on November 7th, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI and declared a minor Basilica.

In 1882 this phenomenal project was begun by architect  Francisco de Paula del Villar.  He was replaced just 1 and half years later by Antoni Gaudi'.  Gaudi' worked on, rather dedicated his life from that point forward, until his death in 1926 to his "client, God".  At the time of his death in 1926, when he was hit by a tram, it was only 1/4 completed.

There have been slow and slower periods in it's completion.  Though work has always continued following Gaudi's plans and designs there many obstacles in the way.  The church has been totally funded by donations, which weren't always in abundance.
 There were very slow periods due to lack of understanding of Gaudi's theroy's.  He believe all art should mimic nature and be without straight lines and right angles.  There was sabotage during The Spanish Civil War, which broke out in 1936.  Revolutionists set fire to the crypt and burned the temporary schools, destroyed the workshops, plans, drawings, and some of the models used to carry on Gaudi's work.
 After The Civil War ended in 1939, areas destroyed were restored and work continued.  Click to enlarge and notice the different shapes, sizes, and colors of columns.  They are to resemble trees and a canopy above letting sunlight in. Again, the importance of nature.  The crucifix hangs as if suspended above all, lifting towards heaven.
 In the years since Gaudi's death there have many architects and sculptors involved with the continuation of the work.  This has caused some speculation and controversy that they maybe following their designs and not Gaudi's.  Experts are divided on that point.
 There have been controversy's regarding a proposed high speed rail from Barcelona to France, and or Barcelona to Madrid.  I list both, as I found articles regarding both.  The high speed underground rail could interfere with the stability of the Basilica due to it's proximity stated as one concern.
 Gaudi' was a very devote man, once going 40 days without food during lent.  He is buried here at The Basilica, where he devoted so much of his life.  Though difficult to see, if you look towards the middle of the picture where the candles are on the floor; that is his grave.
 A plaque showing a close up of his final resting place.  He has such a following, there is movement to have him made a Saint.
The story of Christ's life is depicted in very detail sculptures around the outside of facility.  Front and center is The Nativity, the story of his birth.  Gaudi' was so passionate about his work, it is said he once had a donkey hoisted on a crane up beside the area being worked on, so the sculpture could truly be accurate.  Another story indicates he visited the hospital and watched deaths, not to be morbid; but to capture when the soul left this earth and met The Holy Family.  He used passions such as these to create.  This is one of the examples why some feel his work cannot truly be carried forward; others are interpreting his passion.   This lush Nativity Facade

is in stark contrast to newest, very modern, Star Wars/comic and grim Passion Facade.  This cause perhaps the biggest controversy of all.  Thinking of pictures, sculptures you've seen throughout your life of Jesus on the Cross, has he not always been covered?  And yet, The Bible tells us he was stripped of his garments.  Some felt this vulgar and disrespectful.  If you scroll back to The Crucifix inside the Basilica, you'll note while Jesus is in-fact uncovered, Gaudi' had his knee's bent.  It's believed that was his way to show his respect.  This Passion Facade was completed by Josep Maria Subiraehs.

I've read "Art" at it's core should cause people to talk.  With that in mind, perhaps the controversy isn't a negative component.

"A church is the only thing worthy of representing the feelings of a people, for religion is the highest thing in people", Antoni Gaudi'

The grounds are open without charge, while entrance tickets are needed.  Many people pass by the opportunity due to the lines, and or the cost.  I encourage you to take the time, spend the money and do tour both the grounds and the inside.  We went yet a step further and had a private guide, Patrick Ducher; whom I highly recommend.  He got us to the front of the lines, knew how to get in and out of the traffic of people.  His driver dropped us in front and collected us when Patrick called to say we were departing.  Driving there, or trying to park truly isn't possible.  Don't short change yourself.  It is breathtaking, both spiritually  and architecturally. (I've linked to awesome reviews of this tour service, and the webpage).

Tickets were 12.50 Euro's a piece when we were there.  Around $18.00 US and worth every penny!  2 Million people visit annually, these funds along with donations keep this marvelous project going.  Currently, the projected completion date is 2026.

Blogging a-z in May, my focus is Spain Click the drop down box to leave your name and url of your blog post, not profile page.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ronda Spain

 Ronda Spain is beautiful, quaint, and quite interesting.  There are remains of prehistoric settlements dating back to the nelolithic age.  You can see how steep this area is.  We're down in the river valley, looking up at the bridges and the town.
 The Celts called it Arunda ack in the 6th century BC.  Later The Phoenicians established near by and called it Ronda la Vieja, Arunda or Old Ronda.  Current Ronda has Roman origins, as it was a fortified post during 2nd Punic War, and by the time of Julius Caesar was named Ronda.
 Notice the wall completely around the village.  They had to keep people from falling.  The arch you see in the first two pictures with the bridge is located to the right in this picture.  Click if you need to enlarge it to see the details, and the depth of this gorge.
 Another view showing you how mountainous and picturesque the area is.  The large building is a hotel.  The village/town of Ronda was also called Hisn Ar-Rundah (Castle of Rundah) when it was Arab controlled.  At one time it was the Capital of a small Kingdom ruled by a Berber.  Islamic domination in the are ended in 1485 through out Spain.  After the conquests Jews and Muslims were forced to leave or to convert to Christianity.  Many converted publically, but continued to practice their religion in secret.   Many were persecuted and fled to the mountains here in Ronda.  Muslims who converted were forced to wear a blue star on their head dressings so they could be identified.
 Again the view looking up, myself, hubby, and Dear Friend Jane.
 In 1566 Philip, II decreed that the use of Arabic language was illegal, be it written or spoken.  Doors were to be open on Fridays so Friday Muslims Prayers couldn't take place.  There was an uprising and the Christians were overtaken.  Philip II declared those in Ronda should be killed and those who weren't were sold as slaves.  In the 9th century there was The Napoleonic Invasion and later The Peninsula Wars.  Given the land scape it's easy to see how it became an area for guerrilla warriors and bandits.
Hemingway and Orson Wells wrote about this period in Ronda's history.  Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" depicted people being thrown off the cliff, which is believed to have been from Ronda's history.  The area was famous for it's bull fighting, and still has the oldest bull fighting ring in Spain.  Though it's a museum and not a ring any longer.

We walked the main street which is quite quaint with little shops and cafe's and enjoyed a glass of Spanish Wine catching our breath, as we waited for our tour guide to pick us up.

Do put Ronda on your list of places to visit.  We stopped here briefly on our return from a day visit to Seville.  I

Blogging a-z in May, my focus is Spain Click the drop down box to leave your name and url of your blog post, not profile page.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Spanish Paella

 Our first Paella, a must in the food department when traveling in Spain.  Many restaurants will only cook the dish for multiple people.  Such was the case in Old Town Malaga, where we toured after picking up our friend, Jane at the airport.  It's cook in a special Paella pan that looks like a cast iron skillet with 2 handles and seems to be a dish you do not order if you're pressed for time.  We noticed on several menu's it would indicated it might take 30 minutes once ordered.
 The first time we ordered it, we all 3 shared it and had too much food with the fact that we also order shared kabobs.  According to Wiki, Paella is a main dish of the mid 19th century from a lagoon in Valencia, Albufera (on the East coast of Spain).  It's an Valencia Rice Dish, a Catalan Dish. It can be fish, rabbit, duck or vegetables.  We ordered it twice in our travels, and saw it served many other times.  We noticed some difrferences.  Our first go round was difficult to eat, because all the seafood was still in it's shells.  You can see how wet, soupy the meal is.  Trying to hold onto a Lobster tail, snail, prawn etc to get the meat out was very difficult.  I ended up wearing some on my scarf and I believe Jane did as well.  I neglected to get the name of where we dined on that first day with Jane, as we were all pretty jacked up and talking a mile a minute.
The 2nd time it was order, was less oily, less soupy and the sea food was nicely already removed from the shells.  This was also made as a one person meal...though was too large for one person.  Jane ordered this the second time and said it was much nicer not fighting to get the meat out, better tasting and all together a better meal.  This was ordered in Marbella at a restaurant right next to Marriott's Marbella Beach Resort where we staying.  The restaurant, Merendero Cristina.  I'll blog more about it later...but the short story is, we ate there twice because it was soooooooo good.

**Suggestion, make sure you ask how it's prepared when you order Paella**

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows in Olde Town Marbella

 Olde Town Marbella is a quaint area of Marbella, the historic district that is a must see if you visit.  We walked, shopped, and ate and never tired of what there is to see.  This little blue shuttered area was a bit hard to see looking up to the 2nd floor, but you can click to enlarge and you'll see a religious symbol.
 Not to mention the most interesting and colorful and OLD Bourgainvillea Vine.  I covers almost 3 stories on this old house and look where the root is.
 Hornacina Virgen De Los Dolores.  Christian Faith was imposed on the city in teh XV century and many niches were made of Saints and Virgins on buildings, and balconies to bless the people and the city.  These are particularly common in areas with an Islamic past such as Marbella.  The house has been dated back to the 17th century.
 You can see the clay tiles on the roof, and there appears to be a pizza place on the top floor..or perhaps that's an old sign?  We couldn't tell.
Another sign talking about the many street niches and their importance.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Newspaper Man in Malaga Spain

Malaga Spain.  Hubby, our friend Jane and I were strolling about Olde Town Malaga, the historic area.  We spotted this fun Newspaper Man.  I don't know how people do this, get themselves to be perfectly in character and then not move!  I saw 2 such human art forms during our visit to Spain.  This one patted the seat for me to sit down, then held my hand as we read the paper.

We flew from Chicago to Madrid to Malaga airport which is about 45 minutes or less to Mariott's Marbella Beach Resort, where we stayed.  If you missed yesterday's post, scroll back to see the resort.  A few days later our friend Jane flew into Malaga from Paris.  Once we picked her up, we headed to Olde Town for food and possible visit to The Picasso Museum.  We never made it to the museum, as we continued to stroll and explore.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Marriott's Marbella Beach, Spain

 Welcome to Marriott's Marbella Beach Time Share in Marbella, Spain.  Hang you coat on the hook as you enter and pull up a chair.  The dining room is directly ahead and comfortably seats 6.  With a kitchen off to right in the picture.
 Off the kitchen is the utility room with laundry facilities.  Down the hall from the kitchen is the 2nd bedroom with 2 comfortable beds and full bath, which is to your left looking at the picture.
 Beyond the dining room is the living room and from there is the master suite.  Both bedroom are well appointment.  Love the details with Moorish style carvings, and bright colorful drapes and bedding.  Large closet on each side of the bed with a dresser across...more then ample storage.
 Looking into the bathroom from the master suite, you see the beautiful tile work which is apparent throughout the apartment complex.  In Spain, the time shares are called apartments instead of villas like other locations.
 Roomy, and comfortable living room with patio beyond.  This is probably the largest patio of any Marriott Time Share we've stayed in.  It was very nice!
 From our patio, we had a view of The Mediterranean, pretty flowers and pool and bar areas.

 We walked the beach and spotted some lovely flowers.
 Our Dear Friend, Jane and hubby.  While it wasn't swim suit weather in March-April when we were there, it was still very nice.
 More pretty flowers.
 One of the pool areas.
 View from our patio.
 And the other direction.
We were pleasantly surprised by a gift of a bottle of wine in our room upon checkin, along with a nice note thanking us for our membership level.

Marriott's Marbella Beach Time Shares are 1-2 and 3 bedroom units.  The two bedroom unit has 2 full baths, living room, dining room, patio, kitchen and laundry.  The 1 BR unit also had DR, LR, Kitchen, and laundry.  I didn't see a 3 BR, but the listing indicates the same.

  We found a regular coffee maker in the apartment as well as an Espresso Machine and the special coffee's to use with it, (though be aware, there is an additional charge for using those specials coffee's).  Another European difference was a bidet in the bathrooms.  Sounds like it would take extra time  to go to the bathroom using the commode and then the bidet...getting redressed etc.; but we had them here and in our accommodations in Barcelona as well.  Probably only seems strange to us Americans, which are not the majority of travelers we found staying here.  Additionally, we had nice cups and saucers in the kitchen, something not usually found in other timeshares.  In the states typically there will be large coffee mugs.  I rather liked having a nice cup and saucer.  Daily tidy service is also something we noticed here in Marbella Beach.  Normally, at time shares we take out our own trash, tidy the place, make the beds etc.  Service was a much higher level here at Marriott's Marbella Beach Club.

There are multiple pools, both inside and out.  Hot bread available daily in the market place.  The market place here is much larger and better equipped then what we're used to.  There are multiple options of dining, also right at the resort.  The first time since staying in a timeshare with a full kitchen that we've not cooked meals in.  The food in Spain, truly part of the experience.

We loved our stay and hope to return.

Blogging a-z in May, my focus is Spain Click the drop down box to leave your name and url of your blog post, not profile page.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

La Alhambra, Granada Spain

 Palace of Charles V.  Which we did not get to see when we visited La Alhambra in Granada, Andalusia Spain.  Purchasing tickets for La Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Spains major tourist attractions is a bit of a feat.  Though we had pickets for the whole area, entrance into Nasrid Palace is time stamped.  Nasrid Palace is the main attraction there so you're told to make sure you're there on time, then view the other areas.  We had been told by multiple people if you show up 5 minutes late, you will not get in.  So, we passed by Palace of Charles V.
 We had arrived a good hour ahead of time, but the queue to pick up our tickets (even though we had purchased them almost a year ahead of time) was HUGE.  You walk from one of the many parking areas, to get in line to either purchase your tickets or pick them up at will call.  The line for will call didn't move much faster then the line to purchase.  However, they only sell a certain number of tickets each day, so you risk being turned away by not purchasing ahead.  Once through that line, we headed to the area to buy (you must in addition to the ticket price), our audio tours.
 La Alhambra is a medival complex, a fortress, and a palace and amazing Islamic Architecture.  It's a Royal Complex that's been around in part from 889 ...the 9th century when Sawwar ben Hamdun built a small fortress there on the hill top.  This is a view out one of the windows of The Nasrid Palace at one of the surrounding Palaces.
 You can see it was pretty cold the day we toured, and then it got colder and rained which hampered our seeing much after existing the Nasrid Palace.  This is the view of Granada below in the valley.  Off to the right you can see part of fortress, the walls and walk area.
 Thankfully the Marriott Concierge told us it would be 10-20 degrees colder there even in nice weather due to the altitude so we did dress warmer.  Seeing me just in front of one of the doors gives you a feel for the enormity of The Palace.  Look at the awesome detail and colorful tiles of the Moorish Architecture.  The small fortress that Sawwar ben Hamdun built was for protection and ultimately it became not much more then ruins.  Then in the 11th century,the Moorish King  Mohammed ben Al-Almar rebuilt and renovated it.  This was The Kingdom of Granada.
 A close up of some of the beautiful details.  We were told there are both Christian and Muslim tributes in the carvings throughout the Palace.  At times the Moors were here, and times Christians.
 I imagine this is quite beautiful in summer when the bushes are out and the flowers blooming.  Many areas opened onto this beautiful courtyard.  More building, additions and renovations took place when Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada made this his royal palace in 1333.  He was responsible for the most of the additions.
 In 1492 after The Reconquista, Catholic Monarchs were in control of the area.  Though Christian symbols were added and some changes made, they didn't destroy and rebuilt.  They thought it too beautiful and so Cathedrals were often built inside, or on top of Mosques throughout Spain.

Notice this large door, the door has a door within the door.  The brass bar you see is a more normal size door to let people in and out vs opening this large very imposing door.  Perhaps it was to attempt to keep out the elements?  It's high on the hill in area more mountainous then other parts of Spain and so by nature is colder.  There were no heat sources.  I posted about the 1 and only fireplace, take a look HERE
 One of the beautiful much color and detail.  Truly is hard to take it all in.
 In 1527 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor lived here and built his castle within the Alhambra.
 This is a ceiling that was particularly colorful.
 Looking up at the color and detail again...and the columns and arches.  Truly breathtaking.
 The Alhambra once again fell into disrepair and was virtually forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 19th century by European Scholars.  Restorations began and continue.  This is The Court of the Lions.  Water, fresh water came out of their mouths, and notice the trough of water in the center of the marble floor.  Water was pumped up the hill.
 The Court of the Lions was a favorite photo spot.  Our Dear Friend Jane, and Hubby.
 More color, and more color and through the arch windows
 one of the many beautiful gardens.
 There are examples of The Roman language in areas also.
Looking skyward to try to show you more of this incredible structure.

Alhambra means Red Walls or Red Castle, and though some has faded over time, the walls must have looked very red long ago.  There are many areas: The Royal complex, Court of the Myrtles, Hal of Ambassadors, The Court of the Lions, Hall of the Abencerrajes, General Life and many other features.

It's suggested that you allow about 3 hours to tour, however we spent well over that and didn't see much of the outside areas (those we did weren't photographed due to the downpour), The Gardens, or The Palace of Charles V.

  • Allow yourself lots of time
  • Don't be late
  • Buy tickets ahead and print them before hand if possible.  There are only a few places you can print them, but it would have saved time.
  • Dress Warm
  • Wear substantial shoes.  Even in summer do NOT wear flip flops or sandals.  Even with good shoes on, we all had a hard time walkinig.  Very un-even surfaces that were really slippery when wet, AND the rough cobblestone hurt the bottom of your feet...even with substantial shoes.
  • Beware of the Gypsies.  They very very aggressive and expect to be paid about 5 Euro's for giving you a sprig of Rosemary and telling you a fortune even though you don't understand their language.  The descend on you the minute you get out of your car.
  • Leave the kids at home, this is a very difficult area for children and you can not push a stroller in The Palace.

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