Month: April 2008

Facing down the alley…

Facing down the alley (just turn around from the above picture), and you’re looking at the snail man’s stall. That big cauldron is full of snails bubbling away in a savory broth.

You get a nice scoop of them ladled into one of those red plastic bowls and sprinkled with herbs of your choice. Notice the orange. It’s got huge safety pins stuck in it which the diners use to pick the snail out of his shell.

The smell is really very savory and not at all fearsome. No, I didn’t eat them. Yet.

This is the place…

This is the place and in the lower right corner is the intersection. Forget addresses. The numbers make no sense What So Ever as I learned in my outing to find a bookstore.

Walk past the snail…

Walk past the snail man and you are onto one of the two main thoroughfares through the Medina.

Notice the blue and green signs in the upper third of the picture. There are about six of these signposted trails through the Medina for tours such as ‘Traditional Crafts’ and ‘Monuments and Souks’.

We are at the intersection of ‘Monuments and Souks’ and ‘Palaces and Andalusian Gardens’. With a map that has the signposts you can ask people for help when you become, inevitably, lost, and all will be well.

The woman standing next…

The woman standing next to Alberto has been working for his mom for a couple decades now, doing household chores, and that’s the helper’s mama sitting on the bench. They were very lovely and kind.

The view from the…

The view from the ramparts of the castle. This is a good orientation for yesterdays photos. You can see the big square by the sea right in the center of the shot.

As you can guess by the jumble down there, no streets meet at right angles.

Anya dressed up in…

Anya dressed up in some Princess gear she got as a treat from the Bazaar Chino next door to our apartment.

I went out in the evening to pick up a little snack and brought back from the pub at the corner, this fabulous potato salad that I hope to make. It’s basic potato salad with Greek olives, capers, small par-boiled carrots, maybe a very little celery and/or onion, and then some strongly flavored oily canned tuna stired in. YUM!

…as are there these…

…as are there these washing up fountains everywhere. You have to perform certain ablutions before you can enter a mosque so you always find such a fountain nearby.

We’re at the subway…

April 4

We’re at the subway stop waiting for Lucas to run back to the flat for a missing item. Time for Photos!

Anya is being a butterfly. She was sometimes Tinkerbell and sometimes a Princess. Butterfly-Tinkerbell-Princess is her basic repertoire.

Xander is being a monster. Also he is being a zombie. Zombie Xander. Sometimes he is a tyrannosaurus rex with laser xray vision. Sometimes he is a kodiak bear with knives for teeth and swords for claws. Sometimes he is a kitted out military policeman with Arnie-worthy weapons and weapon paraphernalia. He has a Vast vocabulary for weapons!

But also they are…

But also they are just along the street, as this inset shows, and not such a beautiful one as the one above, detail shown here, but all of them are widely used for washing as well as drinking water.

The arrow points to a purple cup that I think the city must distribute because I’ve seen that very same cup at other fountains, left for public use.

I had the vision…

I had the vision today. I knew it, but I hadn’t internalized it.

It’s the 60,000 students clustered around this smallish neighborhood that explains everything. All the youth crowding the streets, all the graffiti, all the pizza places.

**This is what I originally wrote but a correspondent from fodors.com wrote that it is not the students at all but gangs who are vandalizing the streets and the government indeed does not make a sufficent effort to control it.**

We went to Parc…

We went to Parc Guell, another Gaudi extravaganza. This is the view from the top of ‘The Three Crosses’ and that’s La Sagrada Familia down there.

These yellow trams are…

These yellow trams are the signature tourist image from here and are painted, drawn, etched, modeled, on every kind of surface with every kind of material and the uniformity of the look is frankly weird.

Yes, it’s another bull…

Yes, it’s another bull fighting ring, this one actually in service although not as handsome as the one in Barcelona, but here it is and there was a long line of ticket buyers. I very very briefly toyed with the idea of getting in that line but good sense prevailed.

Alberto had to watch…

Alberto had to watch a soccer game at his favorite football tavern… I decided to go for a little look-around so I got dropped off at the walls of the city and I wandered about for a couple hours.

My ‘wandering about’ hours exactly coincided with the siesta closing so I didn’t manage to go in and see the Bone Church (actually a separate chapel beside a grand church that was completed around 1510) where the bones and skulls of thousands of people were artfully displayed by 17th century Franciscan monks, for your careful consideration. ‘An inscription over the entrance translates as ‘We bones await yours’.’

The Cathedral, and a…

The Cathedral, and a really old one at that. (Sorry about the nasty lean! It’s not really going to topple right over.)

This guy was first built in the 1100s (many restorations followed), around the same time the book Pillars of The Earth is set which made looking at it especially interesting. You could really feel too how the developments in architectural technology had not yet been implemented here.

Templo Romano: dating from…

Templo Romano: dating from the 2nd or 3rd century ‘the best preserved Roman monument in Portugal…commonly referred to as The Temple of Diana…how did it manage to survive in such good shape for some 18 centuries?

‘The temple was apparently walled up in the Middle Ages to form a small fortress, and then used as the town slaughterhouse. It was only rediscovered late in the 19th century.’

The Cathedral, begun in…

The Cathedral, begun in the late 1100s and completed around sixty years later. Like the Cathedral in Lisbon, we’ve got our Pillars of the Earth style of columns, walls, and ceiling.

I’m here for many…

I’m here for many more days so I guess it isn’t enough yet!

The weather has been a bit dodgy with off and on rain, not enough to keep me in but enough to be a bother. I haven’t even gone up to the Alhambra yet because it’s an all day thing and I’m hoping for clear skies (as predicted) by Saturday and since I don’t leave until very very early Tuesday morning I’ll have three chances. Yikes, might there be graffiti at the Alhambra?

And here we are…

And here we are under those pillars from the earlier picture. It was entirely classical in design and proportion. I have pictures from a temple in India with the same design.

Why is that woman in my picture? There was always someone in this picture doing that, so I had to snap. Here’s why…

On the way home…

On the way home we visited The Goat Man and bought some wonderful cheese. That section in the bigger box is one day’s production. What a treat!

The house is on…

The house is on four floors including several outside terraces and a rooftop garden so of course there are stairs and plenty of them!

I spent the day…

April 11

I spent the day today wandering around in the Albaicin, also spelled Albayzin and I don’t know why one chooses one spelling over the other.

So I asked the guy who owns the hostel where I’m staying and it was a total crack-up to watch him try to explain, his face going into all sorts of twists and his body language soo loud.

He really really really doesn’t like Albayzin, or worse yet, Al-Bayzin. He says it’s a new thing the stuck-ups and ‘they’ (ie the growing Muslim population) are doing to make it seem more ‘original’ but, says he, ‘Albaicin has been perfectly fine for generations and there is no reason it should not continue to be perfectly fine’ Double Exclamation Point.

I think it is true that since Cynthia has been here the Gypsy influence is fading in the Albaicin and the Muslim influence is very much on the rise with a new large mosque and many women in covered dress.

Look! Sun! That’s the Alhambra up there and down here under that arbor are areas full of tables served by small cafes on the right.

That Gaudi, he really…

That Gaudi, he really was something special. There’s a little Gaudi in Gehry – Gehry has intellectualized the forms but Gaudi has got the fever.

Uh oh, looks like Rain.

So we enjoy our…

So we enjoy our picnic in a bit of hurry under threatening skies and head back. It never does rain.

Check out that plastic box Lucas is holding. It’s the magic sandwich box. Everyday it magically becomes full of sandwiches I didn’t make. Yum! I’ll miss that box!

So I’m walking back,…

So I’m walking back, more than 8 hours on-the-road and I hear the lilting notes of the universal Peruvian Pipe Band but there’s something about it, the rhythm, the drums, what is it?

It is this. Those guys were totally a Peruvian Pipe Band yesterday and pow-wow Indians today. And they totally knew I knew…

The adorable mother-daughter team…

The adorable mother-daughter team staying at the guest house had made plans for an all day tour with this guide who they had used two days before and really liked. But they both came down with ‘that thing’ and couldn’t move from their beds.

So I thought ok, if she wants, I’d take a half day tour with her. She did want to do it. She took me to a few places I found underwhelming, spent two hours on the half day tour during which time her phone rang about five times and then she didn’t have any change or any time for me to get change.

The magic doesn’t always work. I think she was probably a very nice woman not having a very good day.

I was taking a…

April 5

I was taking a picture of ‘my’ internet cafe and the guy in the hat who works afternoons said ‘hey, take a picture of Us!’, so I did.

He’s from Peru and the other guy is from Columbia so they speak a Spanish much more familiar than the usual around here.

A tavern stop! …

A tavern stop! Check out the notice of a poetry reading by Alberto Rosa Poet Extraordinaire. He made the posters, put them around town, and did this reading in front of the Public Library the weekend before I came.

Alberto said he read many of the poems in English and the attendees mostly did a lot of drop-jawed staring.

The wall tiles. …

April 24

The wall tiles. I’m sure there are books of designs and scholars who have done their PhD on the topic. The newer buildings don’t have them and for good reason I’m sure, but they are a delight.

I’ve combined pictures from…

I’ve combined pictures from two days:

And here we are at La Sagrada Familia (Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia) and wow it is. Since the sun was just behind the spires I’m not getting much detail in the facade so I pulled out a little example. These carvings cover the building.

Antoni Gaudi spent the last part of his life devoted to this construction and, in the grand tradition of the grand cathedrals of Europe upon which it was modeled, construction has continued for 100 years.

‘They’ are hoping to be done in 2020.

Next morning we’re off…

April 27

Next morning we’re off to visit the grave of Alberto’s father.

This is the village of Monsaraz, population around 1,000. ‘Settled long before the Moors arrived in the 8th century, Monsaraz was subsequently recaptured by the Christians…and given to the Knights Templar as thanks for their help. The castle was added in 1310.’

You might have noticed…

You might have noticed them on walls in some of the city-scape scenes from other days. From a distance you can’t see the specific detail, only a hint of design.

Some of the newer buildings will put a square or an oblong of some tiles as a ‘picture’ but that so doesn’t do the trick. To make it work, you’ve got to cover the whole dang wall.

Most of the streets…

Most of the streets are not so dusty nor so free of graffiti, but anywhere in here you can peer into one of these doorways and see an example like the inset.

These are more details…

These are more details from another day. This face of the structure is called The Nativity Facade. There are at least three planned – this one, The Passion that you will see later, and The Glory that is currently under construction.

LP: ‘The lavender-, lemon-,…

LP: ‘The lavender-, lemon-, and rose-tinted turrets and battlements of the ludicrous, magical Palacio Nacional da Pena…delivered in 1840…this Bavarian-Manueline epic’ is a one-of-kind for sure.

You see this around…

You see this around town, on long bare walls with the boxes numbering up to 26. But what is it? I know, and I’ll tell you.

At election time each political party gets to put a poster up in its designated square with their candidate and his position on various issues. There is one set-up like this in each of the voting districts.

Speaking of politics and elections, from everyone I asked, people either are only willing to say nice things about the current king or they really think he’s doing well by the country. I can’t say for sure which.

…you can go inside….

…you can go inside.

I was here in 1991-1992 for work and made a quick walkwalkwalk no time to stop buzz-through of La Sagrada Familia and what I remember is soo different.

I saw some pictures from the status of construction in the 1940s and that looked more familiar than this because what I remember is that most of the walls were not filled in – it was an almost open air erector-set vision of strange and psychedelic arches and carvings.

Check out these details….

Check out these details.

Under the creature the door surrounds are a coral forest embeded with sealife of all description.

No pictures allowed inside but ‘the kitsch, extravagant interior is equally extraordinary.’ The rooms have been arranged much as they were, with All This Stuff, left by Queen Amelia after the 1910 declaration of the republic.

This is the Blue…

This is the Blue Gate during the day – you will have seen the night shot yesterday. This is the area of a whole long street of food stalls and my favorite restaurant is in that group on the left.

What I’ve bought: a small plate of the local sweets that can send you into a diabetic seizure, a delicious selection of dates that I shared around last night, fresh homemade goat cheese and fresh bread to put it in (the about one inch thick pita-like round bread that is omnipresent), and tagines and vegetable salads.

This is the best…

This is the best shot I got to show how the lanes just mozey on by their own lights and I couldn’t get any photo-feel for it except from above.

Wow, it’s amazing for sure.

I’m sure there are…

I’m sure there are amazing views from wherever this lift is taking all these people who are waiting for more than an hour, but I’ll not know since I couldn’t bring myself to get in that line.

Me, having survived the…

April 12

Me, having survived the ordeal of getting a ticket to the Alhambra. Phwww. And then I had to come back the next day to finish. Here comes The Citadel and the Palacio de Carlos V. Tomorrow I’ll put in The Big Ones, the signature Palace and the Architect’s Garden.

Everything in quotes I got from Lonely Planet.

There are paragraphs and…

There are paragraphs and paragraphs in the guide books describing the construction, materials, symbolism, Gaudi’s original ideas, history, future plans etc etc. It’s a big deal.

This is a view from ‘the other side’ where the carvings were created by Josep Subirachs (I guess Gaudi didn’t leave designs for these details?). LP says it is incredibly controversial…

This is one of…

This is one of the many sights in the Parque da Pena that surrounds the Palacio.

It’s a huge park and entirely up hill. Also the map was so bad, everywhere I wandered I ran into tourists just standing, staring at that map, turning it around in their hands, pointing, trying to figure out where the heck they were!

…it looks like this….

…it looks like this. Behind this door was The Most amazing thing. A real local hammam, not that spa-ish experience of Granada At All.

The wife of the guy who cooks and cleans at the guest house took me in and set it up with the proprietress.

It costs about $2 to use the facility and another $8 to get a lady to give you a scrub and a massage. There is no soaking involved. There are huge buckets of water of varying temperatures, maybe five for each person. You sit on the tile floor of a steamy very wet room surrounded by these buckets, washing and pouring water over yourself.

The place was packed with women totally naked except for underpants all scrubbing and washing and pouring away. If I had done this on the first day I would have done it every day, no doubt about that!

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